Page One

Berkeley Observed Looking back, seeing ahead

Susan Cerny
Saturday June 16, 2001

Last 19th century house on Durant 


The Ellen Blood House is the only single family home, and the only 19th century building, remaining on the 2500 block of Durant Avenue. At the turn-of-the--century the street was lined with the homes of Berkeley’s prominent families.  

The Blood House was built in 1891 in the Queen Anne style for Ellen Blood who was a widow of some means. A noted architect of the day, R. Gray Frise, designed the home. Its changes over the last 110 years reflect the changing neighborhood.  

In 1907 Perry T. Tompkins who would become a major figure in the Mason McDuffie Company, purchased the house.  

The Mason McDuffie real estate firm was responsible for developing the Claremont, Northbrae, and San Pablo Park subdivisions in Berkeley, and St. Francis Wood in San Francisco. Tompkins worked for the company from 1906 until 1955. It is interesting to note that Duncan McDuffie, the principal partner in the firm of Mason-McDuffie, lived on a 10-acre estate above Claremont, while Tompkins lived in the Durant Avenue-area established neighborhood where many of the traditional homes were set on double lots with extensive gardens.  

The Blood House was distinguished by its own adjoining rose garden, now a parking lot.  

By 1956 Miss Ruth Alice Greer owned the house. She lived in it until her death in 1987. Miss Greer also owned the landmarked McCreary/Greer House at 2318 Durant Ave. that she donated to the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. 

The connection of the Blood House to UC Berkeley is typical of this early neighborhood: George Blood (Ellen Blood’s son) graduated from the University in 1892, the same year that Perry Tompkins graduated. Miss Greer graduated in 1922 and continued to work as a placement advisor for the School of Education until the 1960s.  

Although the original wood-sided exterior of the Blood House has been stuccoed and some windows have been changed, its Victorian profile is plainly evident.  

It is a designated City of Berkeley landmark recognized as a Structure of Merit for its contribution to the history of the Southside neighborhood.  



Susan Cerny writes Berkeley Observed in conjunction with the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association